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Berth 147 - The United Fruit Company

Discover how this terminal played an integral part in turning bananas, which were once considered an exotic novelty food, into an everyday snack.

Construction of Berth 147
Construction of Berth 147

Between 1927 and 1936, the United Fruit Company operated a banana receiving terminal at Berth 188 at the Port of Los Angeles. The facility was an unloading operation that was extremely labor intensive and required the fruit to be stored in transit sheds. The necessity to store the bananas meant a delay in getting them to market that limited the distribution of this highly perishable fruit.

In 1935, the United Fruit Company designed a new state-of-the-art fruit terminal at Berth 147. Unlike the older fruit handling operation, the new system allowed bananas to be loaded into train cars directly from ships. It sported vertical conveyors that moved the bananas from ship to wharf, and from there, the fruit was transferred directly into four horizontal conveyor belt systems. These conveyors delivered the fruit at box car height to waiting refrigerated Southern Pacific railcars. From there, the cars transported the fruit throughout the western and southwestern United States by rail. (For more on banana importation and transportation, please go to the product link.)

Banana Terminal Aerial Diagram
Click the thumbnail to view a full-size diagram

The United Fruit Company terminal was designed to speed the process of transferring bananas from ships to markets, and by doing so, decrease the time spent in transit and reduce the potential for fruit damage from handling and storage. As such, it represented a major technological improvement in fruit shipping methods used by the company between 1927 and 1936. The only other site where United Fruit developed this type of banana system was at the Port of New Orleans, which was the major site of banana importation in the country.

Great White Fleet ship at Berth 147
Great White Fleet ship at Berth 147

The United Fruit Company built its new terminal in San Pedro with the expectation that banana imports through western ports such as the Port of Los Angeles, would increase substantially. Following this economic trend and facilitated by the new banana terminal at the Port, Los Angeles became the primary source of banana distribution for the western United States. (For more on banana importation and distribution trends during the 1930s, please go to the trend link.)